Re: SIAI's flawed friendliness analysis

From: Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Date: Thu May 29 2003 - 15:38:51 MDT

Philip Sutton wrote:
> I would like you to explain why in language that a non-mathematican can
> understand. If you can't get around to explaining your ideas in a form
> that an intelligent, informed non-mathematician can understand then you
> are commiting yourself to fail to communicate with the people you want
> to pusuade not to adopt Bill's approach.

Nature is not obligated to make her problems easy enough for intelligent,
informed non-mathematicians to understand them. But of course people get
quite indignant when told that a problem may be too difficult for them.
Maybe, *maybe* if it's someone like a physicist, a nice
already-established famously difficult area of science, someone might be
willing to believe that this field is too difficult to be grasped over
lunch. Why? Because it taps into the ready-made "witch doctor" instinct
for understanding a field as arcane and barred to outsiders. Lacking any
established witch doctors, of course, the presumption must be that your
opinions are as good as anyone's and that the problem itself is, oh, about
as simple as anything else your brain expects to run into.
Hunter-gatherers don't confront hard scientific problems. But just
because there isn't a field of AI with an established, confirmed theory of
intelligence, and scientists with reputations for being in a difficult
field, does not mean that the problem of AI will be simple. The
difficulty is set by Nature. I might try to explain the problem to an
intelligent, informed non-mathematician. But remember that Nature is
under no obligation *whatsoever* to make the problem comprehensible.

If you are doing something that will, in fact, kill you, Nature is under
no obligation to make this obvious to you. Nature has no privileged
tendency to avoid killing people whenever her reasons cannot be explained
to an intelligent, informed non-mathematician.

Now, bearing that in mind, you might start at:
and go on from there.

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky                
Research Fellow, Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence

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